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Thoughts, comments, news, and reflections about healthcare IT from Microsoft's worldwide health senior director Bill Crounse, MD, on how information technology can improve healthcare delivery and services around the world.

Is it time for “Clinical Groupware”?

Is it time for “Clinical Groupware”?

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On Monday and Tuesday of this week I attended the 6th Annual Healthcare Unbound Conference in Seattle.  I was invited to speak on a couple of different panels during the 2-day event.  The effect of our soft economy on conferences was evident by the much lighter than usual turnout; or so I was told by conference organizers.  I was also struck by who wasn’t in the audience.  Clinicians were largely absent; perhaps too busy trying to keep their practices afloat in these challenging times.

Monday evening, I was invited to attend a dinner with my fellow panelists (Dr. David Kibbe, Ravi Sharma, Steve Adams, Martin Pellinat) and others to discuss the idea of clinical groupware.  If you are not familiar with that term, clinical groupware is described as a set of practice management, electronic medical record, decision support, prescription writing and other solutions that could be delivered to clinical practices as services over the Internet. image

I like the idea of clinical groupware.  For some time now, doctors  have been pleading for lower-cost, flexible, easier-to-use and implement solutions for their practices.  This is especially true for smaller practices that don’t have, and will never have, IT support staff.  They want something that works more like cable TV.  You plug it in, get some basic channels, subscribe to the premium channels you want, and get on with your business.  Another analogy that has been used to describe clinical groupware is Apple’s successful iPhone.  You buy the appliance and download the applications you need.

Although the pure vision of clinical groupware is to deliver all of the software as “services in the cloud”, a blended model of some software on the local server or PC plus services in the cloud is probably better.  And either of these visions is likely better than most of the way-too-expensive, totally inflexible practice management and EMR solutions on the market today.  HealthBlog readers know that I have long advocated for greater commoditization of both ambulatory and hospital-based solutions.  I’d rather see more money going directly to patient care.

image I believe there is a future for clinical groupware.  Physicians need better, more manageable and less expensive solutions than what the market is currently delivering.  I’m hopeful that portal initiatives, such as the AMA’s recent announcement about their partnership with Microsoft HealthVault, may one day evolve as a platform to deliver clinical groupware services.  In fact, HealthVault already serves as a platform for sharing health information, connecting devices, and providing services for consumers.  Clinical groupware offerings could be a very natural evolution of that platform.

Bill Crounse, MD  Senior Director, Worldwide Health  Microsoft

  • I like the idea of "clinical groupware" and I like the name.  I believe attaching "medical" to any product has traditionally made the product unnecessarily expensive.  Practice management and EHR software isn't that complex, but some have made it strangely mysterious.  Let's take the mystery away and treat healthcare like any other business, please.

  • Enjoyed reading your article. Simple solutions which work will go a long way to provide high quality cost effective population level management of primary care patients. Few years ago we developed a simple solution to manage breast cancer screenig at Mayo Clinic for our primary care practice and results from the randomized controlled trail showed significant improvement.

    We developed this solution because EMR did not have it. Since then we added other functionalities to improve popualtion care.

  • Enjoyed reading your article. Simple solutions which work will go a long way to provide high quality cost effective population level management of primary care patients. Few years ago we developed a simple solution to manage breast cancer screenig at Mayo Clinic for our primary care practice and results from the randomized controlled trail showed significant improvement.

    http://blogs.msdn.com/ericgu/archive/2009/06/11/suggest-a-healthvault-topic.aspx

    We developed this solution because EMR did not have it. Since then we added other functionalities to improve popualtion care.

  • MET stress test indicators are a great predictor of heart health.  Cardiac Care, a mobile solution by ViralMesh, is available on BlackBerrys.  It helps people achieve better cardiac health by increasing MET cardiac stress test scores.  The second version will even integrate a heart rate monitor.  Before Cardiac Care v2.0 is released, ViralMesh would like feedback on how we might improve this application.  If anyone has any ideas about what features they would like to see, please contact me at aklevy@viralmesh.com for further discussion.

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